Photo of Dr Stephen Finnegan

Dr Stephen Finnegan BSc, MRes, PhD, CSci, CEnv, CMILT, PGCertHE, FHEA, MIHT, MIEnvSci

Director of the Zero Carbon Research Initiative (ZCRI) and Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Sustainable Architecture Architecture


Research Overview

For further details of my research please visit the Zero Carbon Research Institute by clicking on the link below Zero Carbon Research Initiative

Net Zero Carbon (NZC)

I am currently working on a range of projects with external organisations to help develop action plans to achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status. They include but are not limited to:

• Everyman Playhouse - assisting in assessing the Whole Life Carbon impact of the Everyman theatre and considering how they can achieve NZC status. Everyman Zero Carbon Plan
• National Museums Liverpool (NML) - conducting a cost, carbon and energy review across their assets to help design a plan to achieve NZC status.
• Good Business Festival - tasked to design a plan to make this business festival NZC through a new innovate carbon offsetting model.
• Jeffrey Bell Architects - developing a NZC plan for a Paragraph 79 home.
• Knowsley Safari Park - Tom Johnson (PhD student) has develop a full NZC plan for the safari including a full energy, carbon and financial review of the impacts and options.
• Urban Splash - Iona Campbell (PhD student) is developing a new NZC model for Urban Splash (US) to cost effectively develop future zero carbon prefabricated housing. At present the true-life cycle environmental impact of their new prefabricated housing developing (termed hoUSe) has not been assessed and once complete this can help inform future decision making on new developments.
• SIPs construction - Bushra Al-Ali (PhD student) is testing the whole life impact of a new type of gas free, 100% electric, Structurally Insulated Panel System (SIPs) home. Simulating alternative renewable energy options using DesignBuilder software.

Embodied Carbon

Embodied carbon is concerned with the impact of construction materials through raw materials extraction, transport, processing, assembly and end of life. I am actively involved in writing articles, papers and working with industry partners to better understand and quantify this impact. Some examples include:

• Fielden Clegg Bradley (FCB) – jointly developing an approach to assessing the embodied carbon impact of refurbishment in listed and historic buildings.
• Charcoal Blue – exploring the embodied carbon impact of construction materials used in UK and US theatres with this theatre design consultancy.
• Everyman Playhouse – conducting a large-scale whole life impact assessment of the Everyman theatre in Liverpool.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)

Another research interest of mine is in the energy use and carbon impact of MMC including for example Structurally Insulated Panel (SIPs), Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) and Prefabricated Modular construction. Some examples of my research include working with:

• GlenDimplex – recently developed a 2029 vision for sustainable homes of the future (see publication list). Considering the impact of moving to 100% electric MMC homes.
• Liverpool City Council Foundations – assisting the LCC team in reviewing and commenting on a new MMC design guide for the city.
• CPD events – during the past 12 months I have presented at invited CPD events on MMC and the future of homes for DK Architects, drMM, Fielden Clegg Bradley (FCB), Urban Splash, Shed KM, RIBA, Jeffrey Bell Architects with future events planned with Austin Smith Lord (ASL), Falconer Chester Hall (FCH), Hawkins Brown, Max Fordham.

Research Grants

Your Housing Group: Producing a balanced approach to the sustainability of new-build and existing assets


January 2022 - December 2023

Net-Zero Carbon Restaurant of the Future: R&D Study


April 2021 - April 2023



January 2020 - September 2023

Research Collaborations

National Museums Liverpool (NML)

Project: Energy and Carbon Review

I am currently working in partnership with National Museums Liverpool (NML) who own and operate the International Slavery Museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House, the World Museum and the Museum of Liverpool. They attract over 3 million visitors per year and in 2019 they declared a climate and ecological emergency with real ambition to reduce their impact as best they can. I’ve been working with the directors and management team at NML to help achieve that aim and the first step has been to more accurately take account of their current cost, energy and carbon profile. This first stage is now nearing completion and NML have a much clearer view of these indicators for each of their assets. The next stage in their plan is for them to consider how best to reduce energy use, save money and carbon through the creation of an action plan. My work in assisting NML has been crucial and is the start of a longer term relationship in this areas with the University of Liverpool.

“Stephen’s work has been of real benefit in assisting us in profiling cost, energy and carbon. Without his input we would have struggled to get over the first stage in our plan to reduce our impact on the environment” – Laura Pye, NML Director

Everyman Playhouse

Project: Whole Life Cycle Impact

I am currently working in partnership with Mark Da Vanzo (Chief Executive) of the Everyman and Playhouse in Liverpool assessing the whole life carbon impact of the Everyman Theatre. In 2014 this theatre was awarded the RIBA Sterling Prize, National Award and North West Award for Best New Building of the year. Designed by Haworth Tompkins, with Charcoal Blue acting as theatre consultants and Gilbert Ash as main contractors, the new Everyman includes a technically advanced and adaptable 400 seat theatre. It is primarily constructed from concrete, steel and a metal ‘brise soleil’ façade featuring 105 full length cut out figures on photographs of Liverpudlians. My work on the theatre has been to consider the whole life carbon impact. This includes the “embodied” impact of creating the theatre and the “operational” impact of using the theatre. Every time we construct a building, we need to extract raw materials, process them, transport, assemble and recycle/reuse them. For every unit of energy (gas and electricity) we use in our buildings, we indirectly release carbon emissions into the atmosphere via the national grid. So which stage has the highest impact? Having assessed the Everyman over a 60 year period (from 2010 to 2070), my research has shown that the embodied carbon impact is approximately 45% of the total impact. A significant figure that is of cause for concern for all buildings, not only theatres. My work with Mark on the Everyman has been crucial and is the start of a longer term relationship with the University of Liverpool. In due course we plan to go public with the results and create an action plan to achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status through a process of carbon offsetting and reduction strategies.

“Stephen’s work has been of tremendous benefit to us. We are at the start of a journey to publicly declare our carbon impact and assess methods to achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status for both our “embodied” and “operational” carbon. Without his input we would have not been able to assess our building at this level of detail and most importantly create a plan to reduce our impact on the environment ” – Mark Da Vanzo, Chief Executive